If you are new to the world of TEFL or ESOL teaching or starting a new course at a new school or institution; what do you need to bring with you on the first day? More generally, what are the most important teaching materials to bring to every lesson? Based on our own experience we have compiled an A to Z list of resources that are useful to have in your backpack or handbag when you start a new class. The list is not exhaustive, and you might not always need everything mentioned for the particular students you are teaching, but hopefully, it will provide you with a useful checklist when preparing to teach a new class.
If you are teaching abroad make sure you have the correct electrical adaptors and connectors with you.
Do you have a copy of the answers to any exercises you are doing today? You may need to bookmark them in your copy of the textbook or have them written down in your notebook. It will slow you down and possibly diminish your authority with your students if you don’t have the answers close at hand. It is also worth checking the answers and making sure you understand them. The textbook answers can sometimes be wrong or confusing.
An Apple a day keeps the doctor away! Always have some fruit or healthy snacks with you.
Headaches are not uncommon in the classroom!
A4 paper (recycled if possible)
On the first day, you might get the students to write name cards, or you might want to draw a quick plan of the class showing where the students sit. A4 paper is also useful for any additional work you might want to give your students.
Or other brands of sticky putty is always useful.
This is an obvious one, but do you have enough? Do you have all the colours you will need?
So you and your students can easily mark important passages in the workbooks or other books you are using in class.
Many schools still use chalkboards, but chalk can have other uses too, such as marking out spaces on the floor which can quickly be erased.
TEFL-Toolkit offers a variety of card sets which can be used as extra activities for early finishers or you can use to supplement your lessons.
This could be on your phone, or you might have a cheap mathematical calculator. It helps with keeping scores in games or calculating prices in shopping activities.
Copy-Card or Code
Make sure you have a card or know the code you will need to make photocopies.
These are always useful for any planned or impromptu games or activities. It is helpful to have enough to be distributed around the class so that students can use them in groups. In most classes, you will need at least five or six dice per class.
Ideally all students need access to a dictionary (bilingual if possible) which could be in book form or via technology. However, it is equally important that the teacher has a quick reference dictionary. If you write something incorrectly on the board it is better to correct it yourself as soon as possible than wait for a student to distract the lesson by questioning your spelling. Alternatively, you can have a dictionary race in the class whereby the students compete to look up and find the correct spelling of important vocabulary.
For older or more advanced students it is always handy to have some self-made or shop-bought discussion cards to inspire students to discuss things in a controlled way as an extra activity or extension to your lesson. Check out our Discuss This Cards and download them today.
If you bring pencils, it is useful to have an eraser in your pencil case as well.
Of all sizes are not just useful but essential. You can use them to keep and label any cut out paper materials you are going to use. These might include role-play or discussion cards, bingo words, vocabulary lists, cut up texts or a host of other teaching materials written on slips of paper.
These can sometimes be used as an alternative to envelopes for keeping paper materials bound together, but they have many other uses as well.
Okay, we are using some poetic licence here since energy is not a resource you are likely to pack in your handbag, but nevertheless, the energy you bring to the class is essential and will greatly influence the tone and success of your lesson. What you can pack in your rucksack or briefcase however is sufficient snacks to keep your energy levels up during the day. A tired or hungry teacher is seldom at their best!
Language institutions vary in their use of technology but these days there is usually at least one computer in every class which is often connected to a smart board. A flash drive or memory stick is useful for keeping backup copies of your own resources or quickly copying materials produced during the class.
Sadly Covid has not completely gone away yet and regulations for wearing face masks are still liable to change without much notice. It is useful to have some of your own face masks ready if needed. Some schools insist both staff and students should wear face masks at the first sign of any flu or corona-type symptoms.
With words or pictures give you an opportunity to introduce new language or concepts or revise key points at the end of lessons. See our collection of flashcards here.
Students often come up with tricky grammar questions that you may not have thought about before. It is best to have a grammar book with you for your own reference so that you can quickly look things up.
Not just to prevent covid spreading. TEFOL and ESOL teachers are likely to come into contact with many students every day whose hygiene standards are not the best. There is seldom a class in which one or more students aren’t coughing or sneezing. Many teachers have found that using hand sanitiser after every lesson reduces their chances of succumbing to nasty germs.
These are always useful for making short notes. For students they can be used for recording the key points they need in oral presentations and are often used as a method of learning and memorising new vocabulary.
In some schools or language institutes you might need to provide some form of I.D. when entering the building, especially when you are new. You might be issued with an I.D. card or lanyard, in which case remember to bring it with you every day.
It is useful to build up a small collection of glass jars, large and small, which you can keep on your desk or in your bag. These can be used to store objects that can’t neatly be filed into envelopes.
Most teachers are issued with a collection of keys which allow access to the main building and specific rooms such as the staff toilet. There may also be keys for lockers and computer equipment. It is wise to keep them together (perhaps on your lanyard) so that you can access them all the time. Try not to lose any of them and make a special note of where, when and to who you have to return them.
No matter what level of technology is normally used within the school, you will probably find it useful to have your own laptop or tablet with you in the classroom.
Whether it is self-written or comes from a textbook, make sure you have a lesson plan with you for every lesson and have it in clear sight throughout the lesson.
You can download our free lesson plan template and sample here.
You may need different types for different surfaces.
Do you have to hand out any marked papers, compositions, or textbooks to your students today? Don’t leave them at home.
This is a simple but essential item to have with you in every lesson. It is a space to record what you do, make notes about students and where they sit. You may use it to have a short version of your lesson plan, to note any vocabulary the students struggle with or teaching points you need to return to at a later time.
Interesting realia you can use to illustrate or explain specific teaching points. For example, you might bring a ball of string and some coins to enable students to talk about the function of things.
- Pens, Pencils, Pencil-sharpener, Pencil-case
This could be in your notebook, diary, or textbook. It could be stuck to your desk or on the wall. It is important to know where you should be, what you should be teaching, what the students have studied previously and what they will do next.
While there may be restrictions on whether your students can bring their phones to class, your phone can be a useful teaching aid. You can use it as a timer but more importantly, the camera function is a good way to keep a record of any notes you have written on the board such as new vocabulary to be revised or quiz scores.
Try to avoid the queue in the morning by photocopying whatever you need at the end of the day before you need it and then bringing them with you to class.
Have a few questions ready in your head or on post-it notes to test your classes with.
Have you been provided with class lists? Do you need to make your own? Have you got registers for all the classes you will be teaching?
Record of Work (See Planner)
You will need some record of the work you do in each class.
Books, magazines or objects connected with the lessons you are teaching today.
- Sticky Tape
To turn your whiteboard into an exciting teaching tool! Depending on the type, these can be used to point to things written on the board which is great for practising vocabulary, used to randomly select things written on the board or used to help you draw a neat circle on which are great for Venn diagrams.
Check out our resource to make your own here.
You could use your phone or another device but there are many activities which require or are enhanced by some form of a countdown timer.
Most Teachers of English have a collection of textbooks at home. Make sure you have all the books you will need for the day. Check them before leaving home. Some titles and levels might look very similar.
Those items we think all teachers should have. We have a great selection of resources so why not check them out?
Make sure to dress appropriately for the Country you are teaching in and the school setting. If you are unsure of the dress code, take a smart jacket to put on, it's better to be over than under dressed.
Video or Visual Aids
If you intend to show a video as part of a lesson make sure you have it set up correctly on the device you will be using. If it is on your flash drive, make sure you have that with you. Are there any other unusual objects or realia that you need to pack for today’s lessons?
Teachers tend to talk a lot. Sore dry throats are common. It is useful and healthy to carry a bottle of water with you around the school; not only in the summer.
It is sometimes useful to carry an old watch and place it on the desk in front of you. That way you can keep an eye on the time and check the progress of activities without making it obvious or glancing up at the clock too often.
Of course, you always bring your own experience with you to the classroom and add to it with every class you teach. That is why it is important to add any significant lessons you learn during the day to your notebook.
Or a recent paper purchased on the day you departed the UK. These are culturally interesting and there are lots of games and activities that can utilise a British newspaper.
Get your zzz's! Travelling and staying in hotels might not provide you with the best environment to relax, but try to get plenty of rest and sleep when you can. Take a book or something you find relaxing to do for your journey back to your accommodation to ensure maximum time to unwind from the day.
We may have slightly bent the alphabet a bit towards the end, but we hope you find this checklist useful and would love to know what you would add to it!